Genre: Action-Adventure, Hack n’ Slash
Developed by: Grasshopper Manufacture
Published by: Ubisoft
Feeling Like: Anti-Hero
Once all the hubbub died down from the Wii’s initial launch, gamers started to want something different. Wii Sports still inhabited millions of households, and was a great excuse to have friends over to play and drink alcohol, no doubt. But when it became clear that nothing was going to eclipse the motion controls of Bowling, enthusiasts nervously looked around at upcoming releases and wondered if the game was going to be good, or have shoe-horned in motion controls. Often, it was both.
No More Heroes was such an example. It’s such a complete mish-mash of successes and failures that it epitomizes the Wii console perfectly: interesting ideas, never before used motion controls for greater interaction, a lack of hardware power, some bizarre choices and, frankly, muddy graphics that made you wish you were playing something HD.
Since No More Heroes is a Suda 51 game, it’s absolutely bonkers. If you’re unfamiliar with who Suda 51 is, don’t worry, I am too. All I know is that he’s an enigmatic Japanese developer famous for making wacky, weird, violent games. That’s No More Heroes to a T. You play as Travis Touchdown, an assassin who wants to be the best in the world when it comes to contract killing. That’s all the motivation you need in this irreverent gore-fest. Every henchman defeated means you’re cleaving them in to, revealing a comical amount of spraying blood. There’s a very good reason this is rated ‘M’ for (im)Mature.
No More Heroes required no introspection then no hindsight now. As soon as I began, I knew exactly what the lasting legacy would be; the open world was bland, empty and boring. I don’t know what they were even going for, because the actual missions are a hoot. Defeating enemies with your non-lightsaber lightsaber is a blast, although a bit repetitive. If you get tired of cleaving baddies in twain, or decapitating them with murderous glee, you can perform various wrestling moves on them as your sword impales their fallen bodies. This game as made for a very specific audience and, at the time I played it, that was me.
A few quirks enhanced it’s likability – like a visit to the toilet to save your game. Or the various fashionable outfits you could adorn the protagonist. Or the cryptic phone messages prior to a large engagement, heard only through the Wiimote’s speaker. Or the insane boss fights, or the lack of good taste. Think Quentin Tarantino meets a Pachinko machine and you’re not far off.
I will say that the game felt like a crude joke that goes on too long. When you’re constantly ripping apart your enemies, the shock at the explicit amount of gore eventually wears off, and you’re stuck with frequently waving the Wiimote in the direction the prompts tell you. The one on one battles required a good amount of dexterity and patience and were ultimately satisfying enough for me to keep going.
As motion controls became more popular, they became less popular. While it was a neat trick to see an input recording as a flick of a wrist instead of a button press, the result was still the same. The Wii was certainly successful, but games like No More Heroes showed that when it came to single player adventures, you better have more than just motion controls. It comes close, but a shortened campaign and a removal of the open world would have done it a world of good.